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Johnny Green Biography

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Johnny Green (10 October 1908, New York, New York – 15 May 1989 Los Angeles) was an American songwriter, composer, musical arranger, and conductor.

Green wrote a number of jazz standards, including "Out of Nowhere" and "Body and Soul". He scored various films and TV programmes.

He was the son of musical parents, and was accepted by Harvard at the age of 15, entering the University in 1924. Between semesters, bandleader Guy Lombardo heard his Harvard Gold Coast Orchestra and hired him to create dance arrangements for his nationally famous orchestra. He gained a thorough education in music, history, economics, and government before returning to pursue a master's degree in the field of English literature.

His father interrupted his education and forced him to become a stockbroker, which Green tried for six months, hating every minute. His young bride Carol (to whom he dedicated ‘Out of Nowhere’) encouraged him to leave Wall Street and cultivate his many musical talents. She remarked, "We didn't have children, we had songs". (Indeed, it was during his first marriage that most of his hit standards were composed, including ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, ‘You're Mine You’, ‘Easy Come Easy Go’, ‘Rain Rain Go Away’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved’.)

During the lean years he arranged for dance orchestras, most notably Jean Goldkette on NBC. He was accompanist/arranger to stars such as James Melton, Libby Holman and Ethel Merman. It was while writing material for Gertrude Lawrence that he composed ‘Body and Soul’, the first recording of which was made by Jack Hylton & His Orchestra, eleven days before the song was copyrighted.

Nathaniel Shilkret and Paul Whiteman commissioned him to write larger works for orchestra, and he scored numerous films at Paramount's Astoria Studios. He conducted in East Coast theatres and toured vaudeville as musical director for Buddy Rogers. During his two and a half years at Paramount Studios, he was able to learn more about arranging from veterans Adolph Deutsch and Frank Tours.

In 1934 he returned from London, where he had composed a musical comedy for Jack Buchanan. At the age of 25 he had several hit songs under his belt. William Paley, the president of the Columbia Broadcasting System and an investor in New York's St Regis Hotel, encouraged him to form what became known as Johnny Green, His Piano and Orchestra. (Green added, "My arm didn't need much twisting”.) His orchestra made dance records for the Columbia and Brunswick companies, in a depressed era when record sales were inconsequential to a song's popularity.

In 1935 Green starred on the Socony Sketchbook, sponsored by Socony -Vacuum Oil Co. He lured the young California songstress Virginia Verrill to headline with him on the Friday evening broadcasts. His regular cast of vocalists included former debutante Marjory Logan, Jimmy Farrell, and the four Eton Boys, all of whom appeared in films and on stage.

Green's piano playing is intricate, and his musical ideas are exceedingly clever. He was at the top of his field in New York, and he continued conducting on radio and in theatres into the 40s, until he decided to move to Hollywood and make his mark in the film business. He really made his mark at MGM, where in the 1940s, along with orchestrator Conrad Salinger, he was one of the musicians most responsible for changing (and, many would say, improving) the overall sound of the MGM Symphony Orchestra, partially through the re-seating of some of the players. This is why the overall orchestral sound of MGM's musicals from the mid 1940s onward is different from the orchestral sound of those made from 1929 until about 1944.

His credits as musical executive, arranger, conductor and composer are lengthy, but include such highlights as “Raintree County”, “Bathing Beauty”, “Something in the Wind”, “Easter Parade” (for which he won his first Academy Award), “Summer Stock”, “An American in Paris” (which netted him his second Academy Award), “Royal Wedding”, “High Society” and “West Side Story” (another Academy Award winner for him). Although Green was musical director on these films, however, the orchestrations were usually done by someone else - in the case of the MGM musicals, it was usually Conrad Salinger, and in the case of West Side Story, it was Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal.

Married three times, he had a daughter with actress Betty Furness and two daughters with MGM Glamazon Bunny Waters. He was a respected board member of ASCAP, and guest conductor with symphonies around the globe, including the Hollywood Bowl, Denver Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and more. He was a chairman of the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, leading the orchestra through 17 of the Academy Award telecasts, and a producer of television specials.

In 1965, he conducted the music for that year's new adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's only musical for television, Cinderella, starring Lesley Ann Warren, Walter Pidgeon, Ginger Rogers, and Stuart Damon.

Johnny also adapted, orchestrated and conducted the music for the film version of Oliver! (1968), and won an Academy Award for his efforts. He also wrote much of the incidental music heard in the film, basing it on Lionel Bart's songs for the original show.

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Nickname given to him by composer/arranger/orchestrator Conrad Salinger: "Beulah."

Musical film
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